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The peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. Discuss.
March 9, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

What are your "secret weapon" conversation topics? These are the topics that never fail to engage a group of people, are fun, interesting, long-lasting, and non-offensive? Examples inside.

In the "Superpowers" episode of This American Life, John Hodgman talks about a question he loves to ask in new groups: "Invisibility or Flight?"

I've begun asking this question in groups and lo, it really works. Everyone loves to answer, it's all in good fun with no confrontation, it tells something about each person, and it always leads to new interesting questions of the same type.

I would love to collect an arsenal of these topics to bring out when necessary. I prefer a minimal amount of controversy, so in general, no politics or religion.

Other examples:
Would You Rather ____?
What is your biggest pet peeve?
What is the very first thing you would buy if you won $1 million?
Why are jokes funny? Why do we laugh?

There. You have a too-wah-pic. Discuss.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed to Grab Bag (85 answers total) 294 users marked this as a favorite
 
The good ship lollipop is neither a good ship nor a lollipop. Discuss.

Maybe this'll seem kind of pedestrian, but movies always seem like a topic that everyone knows at least a little something about. And everybody's got opinions about movies.

Or you could just play that game where you name three people (famous or not) and everybody has to pick which one they'd do, marry or kill (do I have that right?)
posted by wabbittwax at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2010


I'm sure this depends on who you're accustomed to chill with. For example, I don't think "Invisibility or Flight" is interesting at all, but I know I'm especially averse to conversations that remind me of the worst of college debate.

"Why are jokes funny?" is actually a topic I've spent some time talking about. Along similar lines, I recently posed "What is creativity about? (What's the difference between creative work and other work?)" with some success.
posted by grobstein at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2010


Depending on the situation, one of my favourites over the past year or so: "Is a protest the opposite of a contest?"

Probably depends how sober you are.
posted by tapeguy at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Book of Questions is filled with some good conversation starters (along with some ludicrous hypotheticals). I used to use these as icebreakers all the time.

I too think "Invisibility or Flight" is non-neutral. Even in that TAL episode, I think someone talks about how people who choose invisibility are perceived as sneaky and underhanded while those who choose flight are presumably more mentally healthy.
posted by Miko at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many 6-year olds do you think you could take in a fight? Assume that both you and they are unarmed, but they have one day of basic training in how to attack you.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2010 [29 favorites]


Cats or dogs? But it's not the sort of discussion you really want to have over and over again with different people.
posted by robotot at 11:49 AM on March 9, 2010


Depending on the age ranges of the group, topics of shared nostalgia usually go over well. Examples:

"What were your favorite Saturday morning cartoons as a kid?"
"What was your first job?"
"What's the lowest price you remember paying for gas?"
posted by amyms at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2010


Food (favorite foods, favorite restaurants, favorite beers and wines, etc.) and travel ("have you been to _____?," etc.)
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Food! My friends and I can talk forever about local restaurants, favorite meals, places to eat when traveling, etc.
posted by something something at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I find most of these questions close to the "wacky" questions that interviewers try to ask on job interviews. They're pretty bland. I much prefer some light, fun controversy. Like "What do you think of the Twilight franchise?"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:58 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


My college had this special major in which you organized your study around answering a single question using great works of literature, philosophy, religion, etc. The best question I ever heard anyone ask for that major was:

"Is it better to live in the country or the city?"

Now, this might be too controversial for your purposes, but (for me and my friends, at least) it's an amazingly fruitful topic of conversation, to the point that we spend a lot of time trying to determine what answer is given by every piece of fiction we consume. I think it's fruitful because most everyone has experience with one or frequently both, and it's hard not to have an opinion. Like I said, it might be too controversial, and it's easy to imagine people not being entirely respectful of differing views, but I think it has potential.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:04 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


"what do you like most about your job/neighborhood/trip/whatever"? Get people to talk in positives.
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Would you rather be stupider or smarter, and why?" (I'm still surprised to hear people opine that their intelligence is a curse.)
posted by grobstein at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many 6-year olds do you think you could take in a fight? Assume that both you and they are unarmed, but they have one day of basic training in how to attack you.

I've actually used this and it works really well.

I may have weird friends.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 12:07 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are you passionate about?

Not ideal for big groups, but if you're talking one-on-one with someone and are genuinely interested in what they have to say, that question can lead to some amazing conversations. So often we talk around things and chatter away about nothing, because it's seen as a little out of place to speak passionately about something meaningful to you. That question has led to people talking about why they've felt a need to become an artist, or precisely how the world makes sense to them, or why they're dedicated to laughing as much as they can.
posted by twirlypen at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you could, would you want to live forever? There's no Twilight Zone curse or gotchas, you'd be in good health, can choose to die when you wish, you're not invincible. But if you could be Methusulah, would you? Why or why not?

People are usually pretty polarized in their response, and both sides are valid. The responses are usually..

Yes! Infinite learning, adventures, try everything, see the future.

No! Losing loved ones, outliving all your friends, get boring eventually, no excitement when you know everything.
posted by jpeacock at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What's your favorite type of bread" when the chips are down, every time. Everyone has an opinion and it's impossible for anyone's feelings to get hurt.
posted by jimbaud at 12:11 PM on March 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Friend of mine used to be a big fan of the "Who'd win in a fight, a lion or a shark?" variety of question. Changed animals and scenarios regularly to mix things up. He was the sort of friend who could get away with this kind of thing, though.
posted by nicoleincanada at 12:22 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm kinda partial to time travel...

Who would you go back in time to assassinate?

What event would you travel back in time to document with photos/video?

What person would you bring from the past to the future, to blow their mind, before sending them back?

How far in the future would you dare travel without fear of landing in a nuclear sludge pit?

What epoch were you supposed to be born in?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 12:23 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Inspired by metafilter:

How do you wipe after using the toilet? Sit or stand, scrunch or fold?

You need to pick your audience for this one.
posted by twirlypen at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Perhaps this just reflects the circles I travel in, but if it comes up that I'm training for a marathon or triathlon, it invariably leads to a long discussion. Which is kind of odd, because most people's initial responses fall in one of three camps: "oh, yeah, I've done one/a few too" or "I'd like to try that when I'm in better shape" or "you are crazy, that sounds horrible" ...but it never ends there, since people always want to talk out their opinions or hear more details.

So I guess... figure out if one of your activities is similarly crowd-stirring?
posted by kittyprecious at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm often staying at people's houses and so I have questions that are less party questions and more "so what is it like around here?" questions since I'm often not from wherever it is where I'm trying to start conversations. Even though these questions are a little dry seeming and not at all "fun" they do get people talking in a way where they sort of care about what they're saying. So...

- what's public transportation like around here
- do people here recycle [this is sort of a value neutral question to me, but some people might think it's judgey]
- where does your water come from here?

More ideas, in a slightly less-fun vein [i.e. more about meeting people] in this thread.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've had some great conversations that segued with this question: "Would you rather be an artist or a musician? And why?"

You'll hear wistful comments like, "I really wish I'd kept up my piano lessons that I started when I was 13..." or "I'd love to be able to sit at Machu Picchu and just draw the magic that surrounded me."
posted by HeyAllie at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm sure this depends on who you're accustomed to chill with.

Absolutely. I have one group of friends where I'm generally only comfortable with the "bland" style of questions that PhoBWanKanobi pointed out. I have another group of friends where the topics are enormously controversial, such as the topic of misandry in advertisements, whether or not political correctness has gone too far, whether war is healthy for the human psyche, etc.

I guess I worded my question more for the light-hearted generic questions I can use anywhere, but I'm up for all kinds. Especially more along the lines of philosophy (e.g. Why are jokes funny). My personal favorite question to pose is the classic "Does Free Will exist?". Students of Philosophy roll their eyes and refuse to answer, but in the right company it never fails to engage.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2010


They just talked about this on last weekend's The Splendid Table. The upshot of their discussion was that you have to have at least a little bit of controversy to lead into an interesting conversation.
posted by headnsouth at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just had a really engaging conversation around, "What is something that you believed for most your life, that is so untrue it's actually stupid?"

Mine was that I thought Alaska was an island, because the map shows it situated off the coast of California (and I didn't grow up in the States). Somebody else thought bedbugs were merely mythical creatures, before moving to NYC.

There you have it.
posted by functionequalsform at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2010 [22 favorites]


Is honey vegan?
(Don't use that unless you're about to leave, it's a holy war.)

Pens. Your preferred ink color?

Writing. How many complete sentences have you think you've hand written this year?

Pen or Pencil?

You have a farm. Cows or horses? Chickens or goats?
posted by terpia at 12:43 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add a few others of the controversial variety:

- (similar to InfiniteFloatingBrains suggestion) You've gone back in time. You're in the bathroom stall next to Hitler with a knife. Now honestly: would you / could you kill him? I've found that answers change depending on whether or not you can return to the present.

- Is it wrong to mention a person's ethnicity when telling a story if the ethnicity is not relevant?

- Is there an absolute ethical code, or is it all subjective?
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2010


a conversation starter that has never disappointed (especially if the group has had a drink or five)

if you had a magical bag that every time you reached into it you could pull out either a taco or a sandwich, but whichever you chose would mean forsaking the other forever - so basically, you get unlimited tacos or unlimited sandwiches, but at the price of the other.

almost immediately people start inquiring about what makes a taco and what makes a sandwich (for instance, wraps - taco bag or sandwich bag? same question for pitas - some can be rolled like a burrito and some can be stuffed like a sandwich). once those questions start to get sussed out, people start picking, other people start disagreeing with classifications, and sometimes people decide that they'd rather not have the magic bag just to keep having both.
posted by nadawi at 12:48 PM on March 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


My favorite old AskMe thread on this very topic of discussion: Can a young man with a knife defeat a grizzly bear?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2010


"What was your dealbreaker with a former close friend or partner that finally ended a significant relationship?"

You will not believe the stories you will hear after you ask that question in the right environment with the right people--sitting around a table, sharing a house, vacation, long trip with new people you're comfortable with. Sometimes people's dealbreakers have been spectacular, but there are equally ordinary dealbreakers where the storyteller could not stand, even one more time, allowing a friend not to pick up a check or leave a tip, ending a decades' long friendship right then!
posted by Elsie at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh. Also, some of my favorite "conversations" are actually logic puzzles whose results are counter-intuitive such as The Monty Hall Problem and Blue Eyes on an Island.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


What are the 5 best smells?
posted by 23skidoo at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm fond of, "what is the worst job you've ever had?"

It inspires a lot of Monty-Python-style oneupmanship. (I used to live in a shoe box! By the side of the road!)
posted by kestrel251 at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like to ask people how they would kill baby Hitler.

Other favorites -

Which US president would you like to bring back to life?
What is your least favorite musical instrument?
Which mythical ancient Greek/Roman creature would you most want to see come to life?
posted by parakeetdog at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2010


"Have you ever considered that you might have come into existence this very moment, and that all your memories are simply put into your brain to trick you into thinking you haven't? If you're so sure this isn't true, then how are you sure?"

and

"Have you ever thought that you might actually be retarded, but everyone in your life has treated you in such a way so you'd never know?"
posted by meadowlark lime at 1:08 PM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I would find all your contraversial questions extremely un-fun to discuss, even though I might get really engaged in the discussion. When I am with friends, I either just want to have fun, get to know more about their lives, or have some kind of informed discussion based on their concrete personal or professional knowledge. I would find it tedious at best, and upsetting at worse, to talk about race or ethical codes. Those are serious topics that have their place, but they certainly aren't any sort of party trick.
posted by yarly at 1:10 PM on March 9, 2010


Let's pretend everybody has a small set of fundamental questions. These are questions that, at some level, you are continually asking about everything and everyone you meet. (For example, some of mine are "Do you have a message for me?" and "Can I put this in my mouth?") What might be some of your fundamental questions?

If you had a quick reference card, listing your basic operating instructions, what might it say?

What were your favorite things to do when you were a kid?
posted by ottereroticist at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you could fight any historical figure, who would you pick?
posted by LordSludge at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would you rather look really good and smell really bad, or look really bad and smell really good?
posted by 8dot3 at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


functionequalsform: "Just had a really engaging conversation around, "What is something that you believed for most your life, that is so untrue it's actually stupid?"

Mine was that I thought Alaska was an island, because the map shows it situated off the coast of California (and I didn't grow up in the States). Somebody else thought bedbugs were merely mythical creatures, before moving to NYC.

There you have it.
"

Great TAL episode about that kind of thing.
posted by jckll at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2010


If you could fight any historical figure, who would you pick?

On similar lines, I've had a fairly good conversation on the question "Which historical figure or fictional character would you most like to punch?" There was a nice bit of healthy discussion and debate before we finally decided that the correct answer was Mr. Darcy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Whenever the subject of getting Chinese food comes up, I like to ask "Do you know how to use chopsticks?". You can tell a lot about the person from the answer.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2010


"So how about that Lady Gaga?"
posted by mhum at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2010


What was the best meal you ever had? What was the worst meal you ever had?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like to bring up a particular thought experiment that I like:

I think it's safe to assume that humans will eventually have the computing power to simulate consciousness. If we've got this kind of computing power, then we also probably have the memory and power to do this on a massive scale for good results, which we would. You know, for science. If this will ever be true, then statistically the odds are that we're all simulated in the future.

Sometimes it stops conversations though.
posted by cmoj at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What was the occasion that inspired your most vile and dramatic vomiting? Nearly everybody has a good story; but once again, pick your crowd!
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 1:45 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm over 50, so in my crowd anything about the stuff we or our parents did when we were kids that are now illegal or strongly frowned upon now is bound to get people talking.
posted by tommasz at 1:55 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you had to give up either cheese or sex, which one would you keep?
posted by OLechat at 1:57 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you could afford to quit your job and go (back) to university, what would you take?
posted by rocket88 at 1:57 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just had a really engaging conversation around, "What is something that you believed for most your life, that is so untrue it's actually stupid?"

IIRC, there was another TAL show on this very topic. I think one woman mentioned her shock in finding out as an adult that unicorns didn't really exist and someone else talked about finding out, only when she was finally in college, that not everyone ate chicken for dinner every night. Those are the two that I remember from that episode.

Another one that's kind of along the same lines, is to ask what words or phrases they grew up with that they later discovered were only used in their family. Mrs. Webhund uses "decoramental" - as in "decorative" + "ornamental." Drives me nuts.
posted by webhund at 1:59 PM on March 9, 2010


Maybe this is weird of me, but I find it offputting when people blatantly ask questions like this in conversations. (Not trying to shit on the OP here, just genuinely interested in the concept.) To me, asking questions point-blank that didn't naturally arise in the conversation is the sort of thing that I associate with either uncomfortably intense or uncomfortably showy people, but this thread seems to indicate that it's quite common. Weird.
posted by threeants at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like to bring up a particular thought experiment that I like:

I think it's safe to assume that humans will eventually have the computing power to simulate consciousness. If we've got this kind of computing power, then we also probably have the memory and power to do this on a massive scale for good results, which we would. You know, for science. If this will ever be true, then statistically the odds are that we're all simulated in the future.

Sometimes it stops conversations though.


Funny, I was actually considering suggesting this myself. A recent (heated!) discussion revolved around whether it is a good or a bad thing to be in a simulation.
posted by grobstein at 2:09 PM on March 9, 2010


Your house is on fire. Everything that was alive inside is now outside. You have time to run in and save one thing. What is it?
posted by one_bean at 2:09 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can get the right group of people (or wrong, depending on how sick you are of the topic) to talk about their plans for the zombie apocalypse for HOURS by just asking.

With small groups of geeks, I have a sort-of game that I do involving creating your ultimate adventuring party: you get to choose six people (a tank, a rogue, a mage, a healer/medic, a non-combat ambassador and one extra), a ship (or other setting) and an animal companion. You only get to use one character from each canon and two characters from any franchise. You'll want a pen and paper for this.
posted by NoraReed at 2:21 PM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


IIRC, there was another TAL show on this very topic. I think one woman mentioned her shock in finding out as an adult that unicorns didn't really exist and someone else talked about finding out, only when she was finally in college, that not everyone ate chicken for dinner every night. Those are the two that I remember from that episode.

I remember this one! I nearly died laughing.
posted by functionequalsform at 2:33 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this really depends on your audience. As a few others above have hinted at, this kind of questioning can be quite off-putting. I have had someone use the flying/invisibility question as a pickup line on me at a bar. It could not have been less effective, and thus the question itself has become a punch line for many of my friends.

That said, it's clear (in the above responses) that it can provoke interesting conversation. At this point, it would just make me crack up and either (if you already seemed cool) tell that story, or (if you didn't) walk away immediately. If a zany question like this comes up organically in the conversation, it's interesting. If it feels forced, it's awful. I like thinking about the kind of questions raised in this thread, but if they're asked for the express purpose of having a fun conversation, they make me crazy. So try to make sure that whatever you're asking, you're doing so in a way that's sensitive to the situation you're in.
posted by dizziest at 2:33 PM on March 9, 2010


Who would you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
posted by iviken at 2:47 PM on March 9, 2010


What is your favorite memory of your mom or dad?

Even I have one good memory of each of my parents.

But beware, some folks lost a parent very young, have no memory and may get upset. So, another 'choose your crowd.'
posted by bilabial at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree, it would be weird if it was forced into conversation. Obviously it's not something you just blurt out if things are already going fine. The way I imagine it, you're on a road trip with friends, you've exhausted your favorite playlist, you're all wide awake and looking to pass the time.

Or there's an awkward lull in conversation so you turn it into a joke: "Okay, how about a topic. Invisibility or Flight. Discuss". Or if you can pull it off and you're in happy company, present it with sarcastic deliberateness as if it's the most important thing you'll ever answer in your life. I think there are tons of ways it can be brought up gracefully.

That's part of the reason to compile a wide variety of these topics so that if needed it could be brought up naturally and on-topic.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 3:15 PM on March 9, 2010


If you were the opposite gender, which member of the peer group would you take for a lover, and why?

Very interesting responses when we pulled that one out last week. You get a startlingly clear picture of what people value in serious relationships.
posted by smoke at 3:55 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is an interesting topic! Just today some classmates and I got into a heated debate as to which would survive better in a world without humans (inspired by the Discovery Channel's show) - domestic dogs or domestic cats.

I've also been caught up in debates about the Twilight franchise - people will come to blows over that one...
posted by patheral at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What's the most interesting thing you've seen that you weren't supposed to?" (Credit Anne Herbert for this one; IIRC, Stewart Brand didn't answer the origional question, but said that the most interesting thing that he almost saw was the War Room in the Pentagon (at the last moment, it was realized that he didn't have the necessary Security Clearance)) On preview, I realized that this question could generate some pretty crude answers, so..

Of all the places you've lived, which is your favorite?

What was your first/favorite car? You might get a lot of car-talk jousting, but a lot of times this segues into people's first independent adventure.

What things or activities do you wish were still popular?
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 4:25 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are your five favorite films (and why?)
posted by filmgeek at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2010


I'll add one more.

If you were to move to an island forever, and were given the opportunity to take exactly 7 plants (for food and shelter), what would they be?

For the sake of the question, you can assume that any plant will grow on this island. It's a fun question because it gives you an insight into what people really crave (after they have chosen the most basic staples). It's also fun to hear people argue about why some plants are indispensable (like corn or rice) or why it's critical to have something spicy. I have a friend who insisted on including cilantro (I love cilantro too but wouldn't include that in a 7 plant only list).
posted by special-k at 4:56 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Monty Hall Problem is not a safe, neutral conversation topic to bring up. It requires that you hold a specific belief, and those who do hold it may question the credibility of anyone who disagrees with them thenceforth, even outside of the conversation. It can get very, very heated. Don't go there.

Similarly, also avoid bringing up the "airplane on a conveyor belt" problem.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 5:15 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most interesting question I've ever been asked, and it always prompts an interesting discussion: How do you envision God? (It really does not matter whether you think there is one or not.)

And not yet in the great suggestions on this thread is a Metachat question going right now: What was your first job?
posted by bearwife at 5:37 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


My party-trick is to ask people how they swear in their language. (I'll admit this is only useful when people speak more than one). It always starts funny discussions about what is important to cultures, where odd swears come from and comparisons between languages. (Examples: "the cat" replaces the devil in Swedish and 90% of swears about the devil, Spanish people covet milk products as 'shitting in milk' is a bad swear etc)
posted by dabitch at 5:56 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


a date asked me this recently (apparently he was hanging out with a group of people and this question got interesting responses): what is the most normal thing you've never done/experienced?
posted by jus7brea7he at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


What is the shortest list of descriptive statements/adjectives about yourself that would uniquely identify you in this room/in your town/in the US? [and no cheating like saying "Is named Jessamyn"]

I like this one because it makes people chatty, people will debate the rules/premise a little, and it's usually pretty non-threatening.
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


One that I invented recently which sounds really nerdy but actually never fails to get all kinds of people wrapped up in it is:

Name the top five US Presidents who have the most common last names in America (i.e. President Smith would be number one, if there were one)

It's fun because all but one of them are really famous and everyone knows them, but they are difficult to think of. Answers in spoiler free ROT13: Wbuafba, Jvyfba, Gnlybe, Wnpxfba, Nqnzf

Source.

Try it out. I am always surprised at how non-history buffs really get into it.
posted by pokeydonut at 6:59 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was reading this question (and answers) to my husband, and he brought up a debate he is having with one of his friends: Who is the best frontman (or woman)?

First the rules have to be laid (no solo artists) and debated (does "best" mean most talented, most charismatic, etc) then the actual debate over the choices can begin (should Mick be on the short-list since, after all, the Stones aren't the Stones without Mick and Keith).

He and I just spent a good half hour debating this.
posted by dogmom at 7:19 PM on March 9, 2010


I find "would you rather" questions are the most fun when they are
1.Positive choices
2.Whimsical(possibly unrelated non-sequiturs)
3.Vague (the bulk of the conversation will be hammering out the details.)

The other night i got about an hour of conversation out of a choice between two pets.

An elephant that could grow or shrink to any size on your command OR A giant sea turtle with a tropical island on its back that you could conceivably live on.

YMMV
posted by Widepath at 7:32 PM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


The question that I ask is "what was your secret childhood dream to be when you grow up?" most people never lived that dream because not everyone can be a rockstar/marine biologist/princess/Superman. But it gives you a good idea of people's motivations and if you look closely, usually people have found a way to live out a bit of their dream.
posted by saradarlin at 8:53 PM on March 9, 2010


If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
posted by metaname at 10:28 PM on March 9, 2010


If you had an unlimited amount of money, what would you do with your life (after you've bought all the stuff that you wanted to buy)?
posted by jayne at 10:44 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


From Jonathan Haidt's work:

"Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At the very least, it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both enjoy making love, but they decide never to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other."

Did they do anything wrong?
posted by aheckler at 3:30 AM on March 10, 2010


If you had to choose, would you rather lose your sight, or your hearing?
Would you rather have to say everything that popped into your head, or nothing ever again?
If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?
Would you rather be poor and good-looking, or rich and ugly?
posted by jonesor at 6:43 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you had to give up either cheese or sex, which one would you keep?

Oh, I've used this before, but replace "cheese" with "literacy." People tend to have very strongly divided responses to it.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:10 AM on March 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


We had a fun conversation one evening on the topic of: If you were a chair, what kind of a chair would you be?

For the life of me I can't remember how it started.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:06 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Name your (or, even better, your partner's) superskills.

A "superskill" is something that you can do extremely well, but is essentially useless. Examples include: reciting words backwards very quickly; immediately determining what celebrity random strangers resemble; and identifying pictures that are hung at a tilt.

A totally fabulous activity, all ages, groups 4-infinity.
posted by googly at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Name your (or, even better, your partner's) superskills

Mine is telling you what animal you resemble!

(Also perhaps that could be a topic of conversation as well, you see.)
posted by grobstein at 8:41 AM on March 11, 2010


Thanks for all the suggestions! I've reviewed all the entries and have narrowed down my arsenal to the following. I generally skipped questions that were boring, or that I've already asked (favorite movies, etc). Skipped ones that looked like they'd lead to dead ends, and also included a few controversial ones. Here they are in order of appearance:

-- Do, Marry or Kill?
-- How many 6-year olds do you think you could take in a fight?
-- What were your favorite Saturday morning cartoons as a kid?
-- Is it better to live in the country or the city?
-- What event would you travel back in time to document with photos/video?
-- What person would you bring from the past to the future, to blow their mind, before sending them back?
-- How do you wipe after using the toilet? Sit or stand, scrunch or fold?
-- What is something that you believed for most your life, that is so untrue it's actually stupid?
-- Can a young man with a knife [be trained to consistenly] defeat a grizzly bear?
-- What was your dealbreaker with a former close friend or partner that finally ended a significant relationship?"
-- How would you kill baby Hitler?
-- Which mythical ancient Greek/Roman creature would you most want to see come to life?
-- What is your set of fundamental questions? These are questions that, at some level, you are continually asking about everything and everyone you meet.
-- What was the occasion that inspired your most vile and dramatic vomiting?
-- If you had to give up either cheese or sex, which one would you keep?
-- Plans for the zombie apocalypse (or related Q's)
-- What's the most interesting thing you've seen that you weren't supposed to?
-- What things or activities do you wish were still popular?
-- How do you envision God?
-- What is the shortest list of descriptive statements/adjectives about yourself that would uniquely identify you?
-- Who is the best frontman (or woman)?
-- You must choose: an elephant that could grow or shrink to any size on your command OR A giant sea turtle with a tropical island on its back that you could conceivably live on.
-- What are your superskills?
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 11:49 AM on March 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


Last second addition:

-- What are the 5 best smells?
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is the universe infinite?
posted by lunit at 10:32 AM on March 15, 2010


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